Since my last post, our class has continued to tag along with Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey through the region of Galatia. To get a real sense of the cities to which we have been/will be referring, you need to reference a map showing Paul’s first missionary journey. Your Bible might have one, or I found one online at:
Acts 14 details Paul and Barnabas’ time in Iconium and Lystra. It also tells us that they continued on to Derbe. Not much is said about their time there, but we do know that they “preached the Good News … and made disciples of many” (Acts 14:21, Amplified). It was at Derbe that the pair turned around and began retracing their steps back to Syrian Antioch – “where they had [first] been commended to the grace of God” (Acts 14:26). If you’ve looked at the map, you may wonder (as I did) why the two didn’t just cross the mountains to get back to what had become their home church; it certainly would have been a shorter route. Even though Paul and Barnabas had come to the end of the road, their work was not yet complete.
Right now I have the story of Hansel and Gretel running through my mind. I don’t remember the whole story, but I know that they went on a walk through the woods and left a trail of bread crumbs so that they could find their way home. Only when they turned around, birds had eaten all of the bread crumbs. This reminded me of Jesus’ parable of the four soils told in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Remember that first soil – the footpath – and how seed scattered on it is snatched away by Satan before having time to take root (Luke 8:4-15)? In Acts 13:49, we’re told that “the Word of the Lord [concerning eternal salvation through Christ] scattered and spread throughout the whole region.” Unlike with Hansel and Gretel, the seed that was scattered by Paul and Barnabas had not been snatched away; instead a trail of believers had been left in their path, paving their way home.
Paul and Barnabas’ first pass through the region had been marked by preaching in local synagogues with the purpose of convincing Jews and then Gentiles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Their return trip was much different. Instead of Paul and Barnabas being the focus, Luke (the inspired writer of Acts) puts the spotlight on the local believers. Paul and Barnabas take a supporting role (both literally and figuratively) in preparing them to continue in the grace of God after the two had left the region (see Acts 14:22-23).
We’re told that Paul and Barnabas returned to Syrian Antioch having completed the work for which God had set them apart (Acts 14:26). …And now the conviction falls on me. God gave me a verse a month or so ago. I hadn’t thought about it for a few weeks, but the Holy Spirit is faithful to remind me now: 2 Corinthians 8:11, “So now finish doing it, that your [enthusiastic] readiness in desiring it may be equaled by your completion of it according to your ability and means.” I have started so many things that I have never finished! I don’t want the work that God has set apart for me to be one of those things! I wonder how many of you can relate. Let's encourage each other here and now on this forum (btw, you are able to comment even if you're not a "follower" of the blog)! In case you're thinking you have nothing to share, consider the following:
- Have you ever started a project you never finished?
- Are you fatiguing in an area where you once felt enthusiasm? Maybe it's relational, job-related, church-related, a hobby, healthy habits, ...
- Have you just started something you're really excited about? Are you getting ready to start something?
Boy, I hope it isn't just me. :) Let’s continue to study the life of Paul together, so that we can encourage each other in finishing our God-given missions as Paul and Barnabas did. I'll meet you back here next week. Until then, I look forward to reading your comments.